Christian Student Lynched by Mob in Northern Nigeria

A Nigerian Christian student was murdered on her university campus yesterday by a mob of Muslim students who accused her of blaspheming Islam.

Deborah Yakubu

The murdered woman, Deborah Samuel Yakubu, was a 200-level student at Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto in northern Nigeria. She was the leader of a women’s Christian fellowship group on campus.

Two videos posted online show the aftermath of the killing. In one, a half dozen men beat Deborah’s lifeless body with sticks while they shout “Allahu Akbar” (God is great). A second video shows her body burning while her killers boast about killing her.

According to multiple sources, on Wednesday, May 11, Deborah sent a message to a student Whatsapp group asking people not to post religious messages to the group. A rumor circulated that she had insulted Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. The next day, she was killed. 

It is unclear whether her killers will face justice. One of the imams of Nigeria’s National Mosque defended the killing, saying that “if our grievances are not properly addressed, then we should not be criticized for addressing them ourselves.” Nigeria’s former vice president, Atiku Abubaker, tweeted a condemnation of the murder, then deleted his tweet. The Sokoto state government did not condemn the murder, and only promised “investigations into the remote and immediate causes of the incident.”

Sokoto state is one of twelve Nigerian states that have adopted shari’a law, in defiance of Nigeria’s constitution, which guarantees secular government and freedom of religion. Under shari’a, “blasphemy” is a capital offense. In neighboring Kano state, a 13-year-old Muslim boy was imprisoned after being accused of blasphemy, and fled the country after his sentence was dropped. Also in Kano, a singer has been sentenced to death for blasphemy. Nigeria’s current president, Muhammad Buhari, who was also the country’s military dictator from 1983-1985, is a supporter of shari’a law.

Deborah Yakubu is not the first Christian woman to be murdered in Nigeria after being accused of blasphemy. Bridget Agbahime was killed in Kano in 2015, and Eunice Olawale was murdered in the capital city of Abuja in 2016. No one was ever convicted for their murders.

Deborah’s murder comes after a particularly bloody week for Nigerian Christians. On May 11, ISIS’ affiliate in Nigeria released a video showing 20 Christians being executed. On May 5, eight Christians, including two children, were murdered by Fulani militants in Plateau state. Hundreds of Christians have been killed in Fulani militia attacks in Plateau and Kaduna states in the last two months.

CSI issued a Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria in January 2020. Since then, the killing has only escalated.

Thank you for standing with CSI as we bring relief to victims of religious persecution in Nigeria and advocate for an end to the killing and displacement of Christians in this country.

Please join us in praying for Deborah’s family and for the safety of Christians in northern Nigeria.

Christian Solidarity International calls on Secretary Antony Blinken to pursue justice for lynched Christian Nigerian Student

Human rights organization warns against sacrificing Christians in “new scramble for Africa”

Today, Dr. John Eibner, the president of Christian Solidarity International, wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken about last week’s lynching of Deborah Samuel Yakubu (pictured above), a 25-year-old Christian student, by a mob of Muslim supremacists in Sokoto, Nigeria.

Deborah, Eibner told the Secretary of State, “was hunted down, beaten, and set on fire in broad daylight, undefended by the security officers who were present. Deborah died because of a rumor that she had insulted Islam.”

“Scarcely less disturbing than this deadly hate crime was the response of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari,” Eibner argued. Buhari, he pointed out, “refused to say that Deborah did not deserve to die. Instead, he warned that ‘Muslims all over the world demand respect for [Islam’s] Holy Prophets.’ Meanwhile, violent demonstrators in Sokoto lent muscle to their president’s menacing message by desecrating churches and attacking Christian-owned business, while demanding the release of two of Deborah’s suspected killers.”

This lynching has drawn widespread condemnation, including from the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. Thousands of Nigerians have been using the hashtag “#justiceforDeborah” to campaign for change. But so far, no U.S. government official has condemned or even mentioned Deborah’s murder.

Secretary Blinken removed Nigeria from the U.S.’s list of Countries of Particular Concern for religious freedom in November 2021. The decision was issued without justification, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called it “appalling” and “unexplainable.”

In his letter, Eibner put Deborah’s vicious murder, and Blinken’s removal of Nigeria from the CPC list, into the broader context of the U.S.’ pursuit of its strategic goals in Africa. As Eibner noted, the U.S.’ officially stated military strategy in Africa is to secure “access and influence” for itself while denying it to its “adversaries,” Russia and China.

“The question increasingly asked in Africa,” Eibner said, is “whether the United States will continue to work principally in partnership with authoritarian regimes, corrupt elites, and politically pliable Muslim supremacist networks” to pursue these goals, or else take seriously “the promotion of democracy, human rights and religious freedom.”

Thus far, Eibner said, the U.S.’s removal of Nigeria from the CPC list sends “a message to perpetrators and victims alike, that crimes driven and legitimized by religious ideology, in particular the various strands of Muslim supremacism, remain of no particular concern to the U.S. State Department.”

Eibner told Blinken that, “every few days,” CSI receives reports of “indigenous Christians being killed or displaced in religious cleansing exercises by Fulani terrorists, especially in the Middle Belt.” CSI issued a Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria in January 2020; since then, the rate of killing has only increased.

Eibner urged Blinken to take steps to “place the United States on the side of democracy, human rights and religious” in Nigeria. Among these steps are returning Nigeria to the CPC list, declaring publicly “that no one should die for exercising their right to free speech,” undertaking a campaign to bring Deborah’s killers to justice, dispatching U.S. international religious freedom ambassador Rashad Hussain to Nigeria to meet with Deborah’s family, imposing “material consequences on the United States’ strategic partners in Abuja in response to the ill-treatment of Christians, Shi’ite Muslims, atheists, and others,” and asking the UN Security Council “to take appropriate action to prevent genocide in Africa’s largest country.”

For a copy of the full letter click this link:

CSI is interviewed on the situation